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Congresswoman Claudia Tenney Leads Effort to Request Transparent Reporting on 'Zuckerbucks' Grants in 2020 Election

June 21, 2021

Washington, DC - Congresswomen Claudia Tenney (NY-22), Chairwoman of the House Election Integrity Caucus, led several of her House colleagues in a letter to the Executive Director for the Center for Tech and Civil Life (CTCL), Tianna Epps-Johnson. The letter asks the non-profit to immediately publish its financial 990s for public review to clarify how the $350 million dollar donation the organization received was then distributed to more than 2,500 election officials and government agencies across the country during the 2020 election. 

During the 2020 presidential election, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg made a $350 million donation that was supposed to help local election officials purchase PPE and other COVID-related items. Instead, preliminary reporting has indicated that the funds were sent to primarily Democrat-leaning precincts and were used for a much broader range of purposes, including voter registration drives, vehicle purchases, Facebook advertisements, and Get Out the Vote efforts, among others. The biased distribution of this funding and use on expenses other than PPE and COVID response efforts raise very serious questions regarding fairness, accountability, and transparency. 

Tenney is joined by Representatives Mike Garcia (CA-25) who co-chairs the House Election Integrity Caucus, Elise Stefanik (NY-21), John Rose (TN-06), Glenn Grothman (WI-06), Scott Fitzgerald (WI-05), Andy Harris (MD-01), Clay Higgins (LA-03), Greg Murphy, M.D. (NC-03), Tom Tiffany (WI-07), Pete Stauber (MN-08), Brian Babin (TX-36), Doug LaMalfa (CA-01), and Dan Meuser (PA-09).

In part, the group writes, "Many state and local entities have reported spending your grant money on expenses as varied and unrelated to COVID-19 as advertising, designing absentee ballots, registering teen voters, automatic voter registration, and even pay raises and new vehicle purchases. An elections supervisor in Lowndes County, Georgia, stated that CTCL was “very lenient regarding what we could spend the money on. They put virtually no restrictions on it as long as it relates to the election.” 

A signed copy of the letter can be found here and full text is below.

Dear Ms. Epps-Johnson,

During the 2020 election cycle, the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) distributed over $350 million to nearly 2,500 election officials in 48 states and the District of Columbia. Unfortunately, now more than seven months past election day, the American people have yet to receive a full accounting of exactly how this enormous sum of money was distributed. As such, I write to urge that you immediately publish CTCL’s financial 990s for public review, as is your legal obligation as a registered 501(c)(3).

Designated as “COVID-19 response grants,” the hundreds of millions in CTCL grant money were marketed as funds available to election officials to “safely serve every voter” during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the current data available shows that less than one percent of funds were spent on personal protective equipment. If true, the American public deserves to know how the other 99 percent of these grants were spent.

Many state and local entities have reported spending your grant money on expenses as varied and unrelated to COVID-19 as advertising, designing absentee ballots, registering teen voters, automatic voter registration, and even pay raises and new vehicle purchases. An elections supervisor in Lowndes County, Georgia, stated that CTCL was “very lenient regarding what we could spend the money on. They put virtually no restrictions on it as long as it relates to the election.” 

Furthermore, it appears that 92% of CTCL grants were given to overwhelmingly Democrat-leaning precincts.  Pennsylvania State Representative Eric Nelson raised concerns with certain counties receiving disproportionate funding, stating “I just felt, ethically, it was disturbing to me that the private grant distribution was happening, and it was not happening evenly between counties.” 

These reports and others have raised red flags around the country and states are now taking action to prohibit this type of outside investment in the future. To date, twelve states have or are planning to introduce legislation to prohibit election officials from accepting private funds.

Given the serious questions and inconsistencies surrounding CTCL grants, it is especially vital that your organization promptly release its full financial data so the public can properly assess the influence of this $350 million during the 2020 election. 

We look forward to your response. 

Sincerely,